By Martyn Herman
ST ANDREWS, Scotland (Reuters) – Out-scored & out-hit by playing partner Dustin Johnson & trailing Tiger Woods in the popularity stakes, Jordan Spieth still displayed the hallmarks of a potential British Open champion on Thursday with a composed opening round of 67.
The 21-year-old American, making only his third appearance in the tournament, kept his head when the St Andrews course tripped him up & showed an unerring touch with the hottest putter in the game.
p> His five-under-par score around an Old Course becalmed by light breezes, was two worse than leader Johnson who consistently belted his ball further than his compatriot.
Not that he cared.
"I've played enough golf with him to believe in my skill set that I can still trump that crazy ability that he has," Spieth said of Johnson's spectacular round.
"I expect when he stands on the tee it's going to be up there miles & down the fairway. I moreover expect that I can birdie each hole. It's just a little different route."
As 14-times major champion Woods was unraveling amid the frenzy that still accompanies his every move, Spieth showed why he arrived here with the Masters & U.S. Open under his belt.
With talk of history in the making — no player has won the year's first three majors since Ben Hogan in 1953 — Spieth could have been jittery, especially at the Home of Golf & with the tremendous & satisfactory tipping him as favorite.
Instead, he was blemish-free, carding seven birdies, the pick of the bunch a 20-foot curler he rolled in for a grandstand complete on the 18th green.
But the real clue to Spieth's quality was the way he responded when the Old Course bit him — a quality that will be needed with offensive weather on the way.
At the 465-yard par-four 13th he drove into a bunker & dropped a shot. Another one could have gone at the 14th, yet he rescued par with a tricky 12-footer.
A visit to the notorious Road Hole bunker on the 17th cost him a five yet he finished with a flourish at the 18th.
Although Johnson won the day's duel, Spieth is ready for another battle on Friday.
"I think that tomorrow is a true Scottish day that we all should enjoy the challenge ahead, yet today was a huge day to try & obtain off to a satisfactory start," he said.
(editing by Justin Palmer)
Jordan SpiethTiger WoodsDustin Johnson